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The Book of Acts Series
Acts, Chapter 7
Acts 7 (New American Standard Bible)
Recalling Chapter 6: 8-15
8And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 10But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God."
12And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. 13They put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; 14for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us."
15And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.
Luke reports that Stephen was accomplishing great wonders and signs. Through his public actions, he became a problem. Apparently his accomplishments caused problems at the synagogue of the Freedmen (former slaves who had been granted freedom) where Stephen likely was worshiping. Several men in the synagogue rose up and argued with Stephen, likely arguing with his witness about Jesus and scripture. Being unable to cope with the wisdom of his position, they induced others to say that he was guilty of blasphemous speech against Moses and God.
These were serious charges and Stephen was likely arrested and
brought up before the council (the Sanhedrin). IN that court, they once again
testified falsely about Stephen, accusing him of speaking out against the
Luke says that during all of this Stephen had an unearthly calmness - "the face of an angel".
Stephen's story continues in Chapter seven.
persecution of the church in
1The high priest said, "Are these things so?"
To preach the destruction of the
2And he said, "Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3and said to him, 'LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.'
4"Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. 5"But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM.
6"But God spoke to this effect, that his DESCENDANTS WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. 7" 'AND WHATEVER NATION TO WHICH THEY WILL BE IN BONDAGE I MYSELF WILL JUDGE,' said God, 'AND AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.'
8"And He gave him the covenant
of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised
him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the
twelve patriarchs. 9"The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph
and sold him into
14"Then Joseph sent word and
invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five
persons in all. 15"And Jacob went down to
19"It was he who took shrewd
advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose
their infants and they would not survive. 20"It was at this
time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was
nurtured three months in his father's home. 21"And after he
had been set outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him away and nurtured him as
her own son. 22"Moses was educated in all the learning of the
Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. 23"But
when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his
brethren, the sons of
27"But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, 'WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND JUDGE OVER US? 28'YOU DO NOT MEAN TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY, DO YOU?'
29"At this remark, MOSES FLED
AND BECAME AN ALIEN IN THE
31"When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: 32'I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC AND JACOB.' Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look.
33"BUT THE LORD SAID TO HIM,
'TAKE OFF THE SANDALS FROM YOUR FEET, FOR THE PLACE ON WHICH YOU ARE STANDING
IS HOLY GROUND. 34'I HAVE CERTAINLY SEEN THE OPPRESSION OF MY
35"This Moses whom they
disowned, saying, 'WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND A JUDGE?' is the one whom God
sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who
appeared to him in the thorn bush. 36"This man led them out,
performing wonders and signs in the
38"This is the one who was in
the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking
to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living
oracles to pass on to you. 39"Our fathers were unwilling to
be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to
40SAYING TO AARON, 'MAKE FOR US GODS WHO WILL GO BEFORE US; FOR THIS MOSES WHO LED US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT--WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM.'
41"At that time they made a
calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of
their hands. 42"But God turned away and delivered them up to
serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, 'IT
WAS NOT TO ME THAT YOU OFFERED VICTIMS AND SACRIFICES FORTY YEARS IN THE
WILDERNESS, WAS IT, O HOUSE OF ISRAEL? 43'YOU ALSO TOOK ALONG THE
TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH AND THE STAR OF THE GOD ROMPHA, THE IMAGES WHICH YOU
MADE TO WORSHIP. I ALSO WILL REMOVE YOU BEYOND
44"Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. 45"And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David. 46"David found favor in God's sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47"But it was Solomon who built a house for Him.
48"However, the Most High does
not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:
In his lengthy statement to
the Sanhedrin, Stephen begins with tracing God's relationship with
· Abraham’s calling (7:2-8);
· life of Moses (7:17-36);
· The Tabernacle of Testimony (7:44-50).
Stephen points out that
throughout Jewish history, God had raised up leaders to deliver His people,
but the Israelites rejected them, including Moses (7:35). They foolishly
believed that they were in God’s presence as long as they worshiped in the
temple. But God’s presence in the original moveable "temple," the
tabernacle, did not keep the Israelites from idolatry (7:39-42). Thus, the
Jews were mistaken when they thought that God dwelled in the midst of the
nation simply because the temple was in
Stephen's defense brought home the point: that those who claimed to be the people of God never obeyed Him in faith. His accusers always rejected the saving message of God and whoever delivered it.
He concludes with a stinging attack on the
powers of the
51"You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. 52"Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it."
Stephen calls the Sanhedrin stiff-necked. He says that in their heart they are not Jews (uncircumcised). He uses the words that the Jewish authorities would use to refer to heathens. In Stephen's opinion, at heart, the Jewish authorities are no better than heathens. He indicts the Jewish leaders for their failure to recognize Jesus Christ as their Messiah or to appreciate the salvation provided in him.
Stephen Put to Death
54Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
57But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep.
Acquisition of Blame for the Death of Jesus:
Stephen places the death of
Jesus squarely on the shoulders of the Sanhedrin, the spiritual leaders of
Then Stephen seals his fate as he, "full of the Holy Spirit" (7:55), has a vision of the glory of God, and Jesus standing at his right hand.
Acts 7:55-60 tell Stephen’s vision of Christ Jesus
- Stephen was full of The Holy Spirit
- He Saw The Glory of God (in Heaven - God dwells in heaven, not in temples made with hands)
- He saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (see Psalm 110:1) (This is Jesus, as he really is - worthy of worship, of complete devotion and obedience even to death.)
- The heavens were opened up to reveal Christ
- He saw the Son of Man at the Right Hand of God (the only time "the Son of Man" is used outside of the Gospels and the only time it is used by a disciple.)
This brings the council to a frenzied hatred. Stephen is judged to be blaspheming the Sanhedrin. The penalty for blasphemy was stoning to death (Deuteronomy 13:6). Luke indicates that the Sanhedrin is turning into a vicious mob. "Yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him" (7:57-58).
Stephen becomes the first martyr to die for the name of Jesus.
There is no formal trial. A Roman form of execution was not used - Stephen is stoned. Even with a trial and guilty verdict, Rome has not given the Sanhedrin any right to put people to death for this offense, and they are supposed to confer with the Roman authority regarding capital punishment cases (John 18:31). This shows the intense anger of the Sanhedrin - they were so angry that they did not follow proper procedures.
As the angry mob stoned Stephen, he:
- Called on the Lord “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”
- He cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this against them!”
Then he died
The cost of proclaiming Jesus to those who were in control of
In showing us how Stephen died, Luke also shows us how to live.
Similarities to Jesus:
As he lay dying, Stephen asks that the risen Jesus receive his spirit, and that his killers be forgiven. Stephen is following his Savior, who also asks forgiveness for his executioners (Luke 23:34). Stephen shows the same spirit of faith and forgiveness that characterized Jesus.
- Stephen has grace and power
- He works wonders and signs among the people (6:8)
- He enters into dispute with those who challenge him (6:9; see Luke 20:1-7), including those who are sent as spies (6:11; see Luke 20:20).
- He is arrested (6:12; see Luke 22:54) and brought to trial before the Sanhedrin (6:12-15; see Luke 22:66-71)
- False witnesses accuse him (6:13)
- Stephen is taken out of the city to be executed (7:58) as was Jesus (23:32).
- At his death Stephen prays that his spirit be accepted (7:59) as did Jesus (Luke 23:46)
- Stephen asks forgiveness of his murderers (7:60) as did Jesus (23:34)
- Stephen is buried by pious people (8:2) as was Jesus (Luke 23:50-55).
The same power and prophetic spirit that characterize Jesus is at work in his disciples.
As he was dying on the cross, Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" (Luke 23:46). But Stephen commits his spirit to Jesus directly. That is a striking difference. Words applied to the Father are now addressed to the Son. For the early church, Jesus was in the role of God, in the sense of being the one who saves us. Even at this early date in its history, the church already had a "high" Christology.
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